Before EDM stars like Skrillex and Diplo publish a new track, a lot of times they send it to Nina Las Vegas and ask for her opinion. The producer and DJ hosts a show on Australian national radio station Triple J called “Mix Up Exclusives,” where she provides listeners with the freshest dance tunes of the week. In our interview ‘Australia’s Annie Mac’ explains what it means to be a musical tastemaker and what makes a good song.
THE RED BULLETIN: How does one become a musical tastemaker?
NINA LAS VEGAS: I listen to every song people send me, that’s a very important part of the job. Also, I trust my ears.
Does that mean you need a lot of confidence?
I think you gain confidence by doing the job. Before I did my radio show “Mix Up” on Triple J, I did one called “House Party” where I would just play tracks I liked. Suddenly people like Skrillex were sending me their stuff. Same with Diplo and other producers, they reach out and ask what song should be a single.
How do you find new music for your radio mixes?
I usually get up to 200 promos per day. After listening to them, I file them as good, okay and stuff. I generally prefer originals to remixes unless they’re really different, like an AG Cook remix of a Charli XCX track, I’d always listen to that. Eventually I choose 40 tracks and 20 of them go into my mix.
Aren’t you overwhelmed by all the new music you receive?
Sometimes. But then you realize, you can’t play everything. When you do a mix, it’s a bit like writing an article. The most powerful stuff has to be at the top. If you do a mix you need to provide fire from the start.
What does a song need to be picked up by you?
It needs to be a bit weird. It’s got to surprise me. I want to get stuck in it and then wonder where it goes. You know, a good pop song is a good pop song. But a weird good pop song is a really good pop song.
Can you give me an example?
A good example is [Australian electronic producer] Flume’s stuff. His remix of Hermitude’s “HyperParadise” is one of his best tracks, because you have no idea where it’s going. There’s no obvious structure.
Is it easy to find good weird music?
If you listen to new tracks, a lot of them sound quite the same. I know, it sounds weird and I never say it to an artist directly but sometimes I think, ‘what’s the point of this song? What are you trying to achieve? Are you trying to get a record out that will change people’s lives? Or are you trying to have a club tune?’
Is just trying to have a club tune a bad thing?
No, it’s totally fine. There are so many different reasons to make a tune. But I don’t understand why people rush it sometimes. Like, ‘why do you feel you need to finish your EP in a month? Better keep working on it!’ Mark Ronson took five years to make his latest album.
Who was your hero when you were younger?
Definitely [British radio host] Annie Mac. I’m so lucky to have someone like her to look up to. In Australia that’s kind of me for like a lot of girls, but you know, the UK dance scene has always had really strong women, and they’re really supportive, too. If someone would hit me with some UK sounds I don’t know much about, I will just email [London based radio DJ] Moxie and ask, ‘Hey, tell me what the deal is. Is he cool or not?’ It’s great.
Can you name two up-and-coming producers we should check out?
I like this guy called Hi Tom. He’s Norwegian and part of a collective called Rytmeklubben. His music is club-ready, but also very melodic and listenable. Also, I want to mention Swick, who is a producer from Australia I regularly work with. He has the power to make your brain explode with his sounds. He has the thickest darkest unexpected noises. I love it!